Gisela's Hero's Journey
Updated: Mar 19, 2022
Gisela Backe, once a Strategic Marketing Specialist for a well known Computer Software Company, is today a Transformational Coach who has the gift to turn your soul's dreams into pieces of art with silver and fire, and to teach you how to do it.
If this intrigues you, the conversation that we had, and that you'll find below, will make everything clear, and you'd be looking for more.
I was honored to get in touch with Gisela when she decided to find out about her Hero's Journey.
She had prepared for it by going through the Hero's Workbook and shared her results with me.
I then had a read at her blog, I took my notes, and then we sat for a Zoom call.
We dove into some key points of her story, clarifying some connections and letting insights emerge.
I then documented our conversation by turning it into a dialogue as if it had actually occurred at her Design & Coaching Studio.
You can find more about Gisela on her website www.giselabacke.com.
The dialogue that you are going to read will become part of my soon-to-be-released book "Beyond Your Story - Unleash Your Potential With The Hero's Journey".
Here's our conversation with Gisela on her Hero's Journey.
"This is the one I'm most proud of."
Gisela hands me out a beautiful piece of jewelry. It's circle-shaped, in gold and silver, with a diamond on it. The organic shapes of its decoration remind me of a human figure, the diamond being the head, with arms wide open to the sky, like springing and blossoming to life. But I also see a rolling wave, the diamond being a drop of water, standing out against a golden sun. You may also see in it a flower with leaves. Whatever you see, its message resonates with life in full bloom.
"It's the pendant that I usually wear when I coach and speak, and it's also the logo of my former design brand. It's particularly meaningful to me because I crafted it when things started flowing again."
"Wow. Will you show me how you create your clay silver art? I made it to Mannheim to see it with my own eyes!"
"Of course," she replies with a big smile. "Come to my desk."
On the wall hangs a painting with red, orange, and yellow swirling fire waves, out of which a stylized woman stands bold and still with open arms.
On her desk, a cup full of brushes, cutters, and sticks. On the side, some clay shapers and other tools, and several metal molds in different sizes and shapes. Cookie cutters, I'd say.
She takes a small silver plastic bag out of a box.
"Art clay silver," she says. "The magic starts here."
She looks at the small bag. "Silver clay has been the answer to my quest of personal discovery. I was in a place where my past identity wasn't serving me anymore, and the new map was totally unclear to me. Art has been my way out.”
"How did it all begin?"
"I would say that my Hero's Journey started in 2010. Back then I was a single mom of a young daughter, with a well-paid and stable job in a multinational company. That was my Ordinary World.
"The Call to Adventure came when I suddenly found myself empty, numb, and fading. At work most projects were never completed, victims of obscure and arbitrary reorganizations. I had to start over and over, every time with a different boss. I couldn't find any reason in my work. I was just spending my hours doing tasks without any meaning, impact, or value.”
“Still, it was good money, wasn’t it?”
"It was frustrating and depressing. My colleagues kept me going for a while, but I couldn't see the point of dragging on."
“What kind of value were you looking to create? What was your Calling?”
"Something inside was screaming. I wanted to leave a legacy, make people smile, and be a healthy role model for my daughter. Yet, I was mistreating my own emotional, mental, and physical health, and I couldn't ignore it anymore. I knew I had to stand up for myself, stop being a pawn in someone else’s game, and rewrite the rules for myself.
"Still, after the divorce all the responsibilities were on my shoulders, and it felt like a very heavy burden with a lot of tears and doubts."
"Did that take you to a Refusal of the Call?"
"In a sense, yes. At first, I tried to change my job inside the company, looking for a meaningful assignment again, to make a fresh start in a different department. There weren't many options though, and I seemed to be getting nowhere.
"So, I thought I could reduce my working hours in order to start something on the side for myself, even though I had no idea what that could be. I asked my boss to change my position into a part-time job, and that triggered a Supernatural Aid... in disguise."
"What do you mean?"
"My boss replied with a pivotal question: 'Are you not able, or are you not willing anymore?'
"It sounded to me like he was challenging my ability to stay on top of my work, and that made me furious. In that moment, I knew I didn’t want to live anymore that cold life of numbers without appreciation and creativity. So, without knowing what I was going to do next, nor how I was going to make it happen, I quit my job.”
“I may imagine how angry you were.”
"Quite recently though, as I was reflecting on these events to write down my Hero's Journey, I realized that he wasn't challenging me. He had seen beyond my question and had sensed that I couldn't carry on with that soul-sucking situation. He probably shared the same feelings. Some time later he too left the job."
"In any case, he did his part and provided you with the push to cut off with something that was draining out your energy."
"Right. And it sprinted me into my First Threshold."
"When did that happen?"
"Right after my resignation, as I entered the Arbeitsamt, the Employment Office. I was scared while signing the papers to ask for the unemployment benefit. I expected they would penalize me, since I had been the one choosing for unemployment.”
She pauses for a second.
"Yet, a very kind consultant listened and read between the lines. The job I had resigned from had already caused critical issues for my physical and mental health. He asked me whether I could provide a confirmation by my doctor that it would have gotten worse if I hadn’t taken the appropriate measures. Of course, I could.
"So, I got the unemployment benefit without any restrictions, and quitting my job suddenly showed up as the healthiest choice I could have ever taken, from all points of view."
“He acknowledged your suffering. That’s what ‘being human’ is all about.”
"Yes. And shortly afterwards, I had another experience of support from the employment office. I was looking for different jobs, and I assumed I had to enter the corporate world again and fit into the system. That was breaking my heart, but I thought I had no other options, since I was the sole wage earner for my daughter and me. Yet instead, I was advised to think about becoming an entrepreneur and create my own job."
"Cool. The universe was giving to you some hints at what would have come next.”
“So, you had made your choice and were on your quest to discover your own potential. At this time on the Journey, the Heroes typically enter the 'Belly of the Whale', a place of silence and maybe darkness, disappearing from the world around. Did you experience anything like that?"
"Well, I entered a period of mental and emotional recovery. I wanted to reconnect with my old hopes and dreams, and I remembered my passion for artistic creations and silver jewelry. It was at that time that I stumbled into silver clay," she says as she holds the little silver plastic bag and opens it.
She takes a white playdough out of it and starts to knead it with two fingers.
"What is that made of?"
"It's a binder with silver particles into it. You give it a form, you set it on fire, the binder burns out, and the silver structure remains.”
“Sounds like magic.”
"I instinctively felt that art clay silver was the answer to my questions and to everything I had ever wanted. I explored all the opportunities that came with it, took courses to create silver clay jewelry, and got trained to become a teacher myself. I was regaining my strength and self-belief. And yes, I was totally absorbed by it, as disappearing in a cave, in a good sense.
“Let me show you how it works.”
Gisela places the small ball of clay on a green smooth mat on her desk and gently presses it against the surface. Then she gets two thin plastic spacers and sets them on the sides of the clay.
She selects a star shaped cookie cutter, takes a roller and quickly rolls out the clay, until it is a bit larger than the cutter.
Then she presses the cutter on it, removes the excess clay from the outside of the shape, and gently removes the clay from the cutter.
Here it is, a grey clay star.
“Let’s make it dry out for a few minutes," Gisela says, as she puts it aside.
"Where were we? Ah yes. Silver clay led me to my Road of Trials, with multiple tests, challenges, wins, and defeats.”
“Let’s start with the wins.”
"I was able to turn into reality one of my greatest dreams: opening my own concept store with a coffee bar, gallery, and workshop space for teaching how to make jewelry with silver clay. I personally designed its spaces, and people got excited about it.
"It was a success, yet it quickly turned into a gilded cage. I had to get a loan for it, and I lost my freedom to opening hours and to the shop rent I had to earn. Over time, all this left me hardly any room for creativity and real connections to people, which were what I was aiming at in the first place.
"The fun thing is that it led me to meet both 'The Goddess' and 'The Temptress' of the Hero's Journey."
"It doesn't surprise me; apparent dualities often coexist. Think of Shiva Nataraja, both Destructor and Creator. I'm curious of what shape it took on your Journey."
"Working with people and with their dreams led me to a place where my clients and I could see their full potentials, a place where everything was possible. In the store people felt seen, validated, and welcomed to 'just being'. As I sat down helping them create their pieces of jewelry, I sensed that silver clay was a catalyst for them to reconnect with their own inner treasures.”
She looks at the star on her desk.
"I realized that it was not about the outside space that I had created with the concept store, but about the space within that I was helping them to enter again. They were rediscovering their creativity and reconnecting with their inner truth, while also creating a tangible proof for it. And everything became clear to me. This was what I was meant to be doing. This was my Meeting with the Goddess.
"Then, noticing my ability to connect both sides and create deep and valuable experiences for people, I started to play with the idea of developing my own coaching program including fire and silver."
"And when did the Temptress show up?"
"For a couple of years, I struggled to make my concept store a financial success. I had to downsize it to a studio for only the jewelry workshops and individual jewelry creation. Then the road in front of the studio was completely ripped open due to construction work for almost 2 years. Figure it: no cars, no public transportation, no customers anymore. I had to close it down, sell the interior, and rearrange everything in my apartment to create space for my desk and workbench.
"At that time, I didn’t know which way to go. I doubted everything about my purpose and the path which I had been so sure was the right one for me."
"Where you considering giving up?"
"I had to earn money, and the path wasn't providing me with a sustainable flow. Several opportunities had shown up in terms of potential partnerships and engagements, but they turned out to be dead ends. It seemed like I was showing something invisible, and people couldn't see it."
She pauses, and stares at the window.
"I had to find a better way to communicate it, but I didn't know how. And yes, I was one step away from considering giving up and return to a dreaded corporate job."
"This is the moment when Heroes face their innermost fears. Campbell calls it Atonement with the Father, others call it The Final Ordeal. Something dies so that something else can come to life. Did anything like that show up for you?"
Gisela takes a breath.
"I realized that I had to dive into the art of transformational as well as emotional coaching, and I invested in myself to get professional coaching training. It felt like the last desperate chance to create the life according to my nature, my rules, and my desires."
She takes some sanding pads and emery paper out of a box and starts gently sanding the base and sides of the star.
"I finally recreated my website and put myself out there as a transformational coach. It was something that took a lot of courage and made me face my inner demons. And there was no turning back.
She looks me in the eyes, and smiles.
"And I could not 'not' do it."
Gisela takes a solder block with a metal grill on it, positions it in front of herself, and places the clay star upon the grill.
Then, she puts soldering safety eyeglasses on and takes a small hand torch. She opens it, and a blue flame comes out of it.
The flame heats the star until it glows pale orange.
“The binder is catching fire. We just have to keep heating till the flames die away.”
When she’s done, she takes the metal tweezers to pick the piece and dip it into water. It fizzes and instantly cools down.
Then she takes it out of the water. “It appears completely white, but it is now solid silver. You just have to rub a brass brush over it, this way, until the silver shows up.”
After a few seconds the silver begins to shine.
Another bit of work, and Gisela shows me a brilliant silver star.
She smiles as she sees astonishment in my wide-open eyes.
"And so, I became a professional coach who was using the transformative power of creative work in her own practice. And the Universe had its ways to confirm that it was the right decision for me to take."
"Firstly, I was offered to rent the apartment right above where I lived, as a space for my design and coaching studio. Exactly where we are right now. That's been an incredible blessing.
"Then, I got interviewed in several occasions: at the Heidelberg International Professional Women’s Forum, on Meinbestesjahr.tv, on the Eigenstimmig Podcast, and on Hehocra by Doreen Trittel.
"Finally, I was part of a retreat with my coaching-creation-workshop approach to anchor life coaching experiences, and I started to give inspirational talks using silver and fire as symbols for change and truth. Bit by bit, I got my coaching practice up, conducted transformational workshops again and received exciting orders for unique pieces of jewelry."
"It looks like you found your own treasure, your Ultimate Boon, by helping people find their own."
"There's this feeling that I am in the right place at the right time. I help people step into their power again, building hope and tapping into their internal resources. My daughter is proud of me, and even though there are tough times of financial insecurity, I highly treasure the freedom and self-determination that comes with entrepreneurship. "
"Did that bring you the right audience to share your message?"
"Those public events brought some traction, but, you know, the fuss tends to dissolve quite quickly. You need to feed the fire if you want to keep it alive. And I knew that I had to do something more to spread the message and find more people who resonated with it. When you discover something so incredibly valuable, you feel an obligation to share your work and your insights with as many people as possible.
"I had already made some experience with the world of online courses and online marketing, but it had all sounded to me unauthentic, unhealthy, and flat. I wanted to help people discover their truth, find their home, their space within, but I couldn't do it in a way that didn't feel right to me. That kept me stuck thinking for some time."
"The Refusal of the Return. And what got you back on track?"
"Experimenting, at first. I had some success with my weekly inspirational live video sessions. It was fun, and I continue to do them. But then I got some unexpected big help. Exactly what in the Hero’s Journey you would call the Rescue from Without, on two different levels.
"Covid-19 has forced people to learn and use internet for both their business and private matters. The issue with regional distance has therefore disappeared for most of my clients, as online coaching has increasingly become the state of the art. My experience with live streams and online courses has come in very useful.
"Then, I started a successful partnership with a coaching service provider. It has led to a profitable increase in the number of coaching contracts with clients from different regions, who want to gain more clarity, dissolve emotional blocks, and take the next step in their work and private life.
"On top of this, I've received a speaking assignment for a company that serves people from all backgrounds. It includes an inspirational talk and a group coaching afterwards. I'm so excited about it."
"Do you feel that you have already crossed your Return Threshold?"
"You told me that the first and the last thresholds in a Hero's Journey have something in common. That made me very curious. And I'm still puzzled to tell you that, yes, I've crossed it, and the resemblance between my two thresholds is astonishing."
"All merits go to Campbell, he was the one who noticed the analogy. Now you've made me curious."
"The Arbeitsamt was my First Threshold, remember? Well, with Covid-19 hitting the economy, many people have become unemployed, and the workload for the Employment Office here has increased in a tremendous way.
"They needed help in advising and coaching people. And guess what? They reached out to me! So, I started to regularly coach people who are in the same situation I once was, and so now I can give back."
"Wow, that's a beautiful way to close the circle. Who better than you? You've gone through your fears, your challenges, your suffering, and you've come all the way out to tell other people that there's hope."
"My whole life has prepared me for that. You know, I’ve lived in a Country that doesn’t exist anymore, the German Democratic Republic, or East Germany. The collective process of healing the wound of the Berlin Wall had probably planted some seeds in my soul back then."
"You may imagine, then, that breaking through the walls of my reality had been far more than just a metaphor to me. I had actually seen the Wall falling. Yet, I really learnt what breaking a wall meant when I had to dismount the mental bricks of my self-imposed conditions, and I reached out to the light on the other side.
"Do you see this painting on the wall? That's the phoenix in me rising from the ashes. As in silver clay, fire dissolves what doesn't serve anymore, and only what counts is left. And that's a beautiful metaphor of one's life journey."
"Sounds like you are truly embodying the Master of the Two Worlds now."
"Accompanying inner transformation, and at the same time making it visible as well as tangible for my clients with silver clay, is the most fulfilling work I know of, right now. Spirit and matter, in one single whole."
"What is 'Freedom to Live', as for what you see right now?"
"The more I surrender to the divine energy behind everything and within myself, and I don’t get caught up in my own thinking and wanting to control the outside world, the more miracles I see happening. This is the treasure that the Journey has provided me with, and this is the gift that I want to share with the world.
"And the beautiful paradox is that, as with the silver in the clay binder, everything has always been here, even before starting the Journey."
Gisela looks me in the eyes, and we smile.
We give a final glance at the silver star in her hand, as the sunlight from the window makes it sparkle.
Is this post lighting you up? Are you willing to Open Up to Your Potentials?
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The Journey so far:
Gisela's Hero's Journey - This post
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